Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life

Date:
April 4, 2011
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
Formaldehyde, a poison and a common molecule throughout the universe, is likely the source of the solar system's organic carbon solids -- abundant in both comets and asteroids. Scientists have long speculated about the how organic, or carbon-containing, material became a part of the solar system's fabric. New research shows that these complex organic solids were likely made from formaldehyde in the primitive solar system.

Formaldehyde molecules.
Credit: iStockphoto/Matteo Rinaldi

Formaldehyde, a poison and a common molecule throughout the universe, is likely the source of the solar system's organic carbon solids -- abundant in both comets and asteroids. Scientists have long speculated about the how organic, or carbon-containing, material became a part of the solar system's fabric. New research from Carnegie's George Cody, along with Conel Alexander and Larry Nittler, shows that these complex organic solids were likely made from formaldehyde in the primitive solar system.

Their work is published online April 4 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We may owe our existence on this planet to interstellar formaldehyde," Cody said. "And what's ironic about it is that formaldehyde is poisonous to life on Earth."

During the early period of the inner solar system's formation, much of the organic carbon that wasn't trapped in primitive bodies was lost to space, along with much of the water. Prior to this study numerous competing ideas emerged to explain the existence of primitive organic solids. Cody, of the Geophysical Laboratory, along with Alexander and Nittler, of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and the team decided to study primitive solar system objects using advanced methods. What they discovered clearly pointed to a polymer formed from formaldehyde.

They tested their conclusion with experiments to reproduce the type of organic matter found in carbonaceous chondrites, a type of organic-rich meteorite, starting with formaldehyde. They found that their formaldehyde-synthesized organic material was not only similar to that found in carbonaceous chondrites, but also similar to organic material found in a comet named 81P/Wild 2, pieces of which were collected in space by NASA's Stardust mission, as well as in interplanetary dust particles, or particles from space that likely originated from comets and asteroids.

Their results make sense, because formaldehyde is relatively abundant throughout the galaxy and the polymerization process would have been possible under conditions of the primitive solar system.

"Establishing the likely origin of the principal source of organic carbon in primitive solar system bodies is extremely satisfying," Cody said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. George D. Cody, Emily Heying, Conel M. O. Alexander, Larry R. Nittler, A. L. David Kilcoyne, Scott A. Sandford, Rhonda M. Stroud. Cosmochemistry Special Feature: Establishing a molecular relationship between chondritic and cometary organic solids. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015913108

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2011, April 4). Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Formaldehyde: Poison could have set the stage for the origins of life." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404151351.htm (accessed September 1, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins